Having just finished an inspiring telephone conversation with Christine Crosby, editorial director of GRAND Magazine, the role of print media targeting Boomers is on my mind and a timely subject to discuss here.
As most experienced professionals in the marketing field know, magazine publishers have been traditionally reluctant to invest in lifestyle magazines targeting adults over a certain age. Their reticence can be attributed to many things, but most of my colleagues and I agree that ageism and stereotypes are significant factors.
Ageism has held publishers back largely because of advertisers' unwillingness to buy print ads in media associating their brands with adults in middle age and beyond. Stereotypes include a myth that brand preferences solidify early in life and it's unlikely that anyone in middle age or older can be swayed to switch. Allegedly, associating a brand with older adults diminishes the hip, trendy, and edgy connotations of the brand. Without consistent advertisers, magazines cannot survive.
Much has been written about the business absurdity of these flawed myths, including in my book, the first edition of which addressed this issue almost five years ago. The most recent article on this topic appeared in Barron's magazine in late February.
A recent realization in the advertising world is swelling to become a cacophony of pronouncements from enlightened observers: Boomers aren't their parents, and brand switching is a fact of this generation's consumer trajectory, from its youth in the 1950's until its ultimate disappearance at mid-century. Boomers are hardwired to consume, and brand switching is a part of the culture.
The Barron's article reinforces for about the 1000th time in business media during the last two years: "consumers aged 50-plus already spend more than $1.7 trillion on goods and services" and "the 50-plus crowd now controls 50% of all U.S. discretionary income." As I wrote in one of my articles about the Boomer business opportunity in 2004, "Duh."
Further, Boomers will not tolerate marginalization. Recent national research I conducted in collaboration with a research company revealed that a sizeable majority of Boomers agree that "ads with people my own age increase my likelihood of purchasing a product" and a sizeable majority agree that "ads capturing a sense of my generation and its unique history would increase the likelihood of me purchasing their product."
Although some goliath magazine publishers have seen and reacted to this opportunity, notably More magazine and AARP, The Magazine, those intrepid souls willing to introduce magazines targeting Boomers still must cajole an advertising industry very slow to accept demographic and generational realities. But as the Boomers' favorite bard once sang: The Times They Are A-Changin'.
During the previous year, Rodale, publisher of Men's Health magazine, engaged my firm to develop a new marketing program for its magazine targeting middle-aged men, Best Life. You can see a partial sample of the program we created here:
Further, I have been invited to be the keynote speaker to help launch another major new magazine targeting Boomers in Sweden. PLUS Sweden is a magazine that will be similar to AARP's house magazine and is the result of a strategic partnership between Bayard and TTG, two of Europe's largest and most respected publishers. The Swedish version of this magazine isn't a bold and wishful experiment; it's a sound business strategy based on the success of the PLUS brand in Holland, Germany and Belgium.
The business message to the world's great consumer brands is quite clear: magazines such as Plus Sweden and Grand are the future. Gracing the cover of Christine Crosby's publication, a "magazine for today's grandparent," are notables — many of whom are powerfully associated with Boomers when they were young — such as Donny Osmond, Tony Danza, Goldie Hawn, Paul McCartney and Harrison Ford.
As the Boomer generation continues to age, many more Boomer celebrities will proudly and loudly proclaim the virtues of being a grandparent. The less famous of this generation will be equally demonstrative in their support of media and advertisers that celebrate, rather than shun, the 50+ lifestage. They will buy magazines at newsstands and through subscriptions that resonate around their evolving, active lifestyles. They will transform industries that take advantage of the special power of print media to reach, teach and entertain.
Finally, albeit hesitantly, visionary publishers and imaginative advertisers are starting to push though ageism and stereotypes to create truly relevant and successful media and advertising campaigns.
Remember this critical fact about the generation that represents 26% of the US population: Boomers are readers. Magazines are among the most powerful media available to connect with this generation.